Imagine that writing a book is like baking a cake. It requires proper ingredients, the right amount of everything, and it’s tricky to make a masterpiece the very first time. Adverbs, adjectives, metaphors, and similes are some of the best “ingredients” to spice up any story. But just like baking, it’s necessary to know how much to add to the rest of the “batter” before it’s ready to share with others.
The trick to writing any good story is detail. This is key for children’s literature because so often, the imaginations of children carry them away to the places the story is describing. But just like adding too much spice to a cake can make it taste awful, too much detail inhibits the readers. The more details there are, the more limited a reader is to imagine the appearance of a character.
Which, by the way, isn’t a bad thing. It’s nice to have a concrete idea of what a character looks like. It’s easier to picture and much easier to enjoy the story with a clarity to the appearance of the character.
In the case of describing scenery like our dear friends Tolkien and Hawthorne, the reader can become overwhelmed with the amount of detail they’re expected to remember in order to continue on with the story. On the other side of the spectrum, it can get frustrating wading through foggy details that don’t give nearly enough of a picture.
For the Pokemon fans out there, imagine that reading a book without enough scenery detail is like going through the Rock Tunnel without Flash.
Therefore, there needs to be some kind of a happy medium between having too much detail and too little. Is there a magical formula that will tell writers when to stop the detail? Well, kind of. Because so many people write differently and see things differently, they will all have a varying idea of what needs detail and what doesn’t.
It’s important to use the 5 senses when describing something; especially when writing in the horror genre. And this doesn’t mean characters need to start licking trees in order to describe them. Also, try to think about what’s important. What does the reader need to know in order to form a good picture in his/her mind?
The best way to know how much detail to use is to read. The next time you crack open a book, dear reader, take notes of what is described, how it’s described, and how long something is spent being described.
Good reading is the key to good writing. Who knew?